Here’s an interesting discussion from the Observer about the infamous Innocence of Muslims video, and the consequences of leaving decisions about free speech vs. hate speech in the hands of commercial organisations like Google.
(Read the Observer article in conjunction with chapter one of Theory Without Fear.)
European commentators have smugly observed that the kerfuffle shows how little the Arab world understands the idea of free speech. Actually, what it shows is the gulf that separates the US from the rest of the world, including Europe. If the video had surfaced on a hosting site based in the UK, for example, it would have been taken down for incitement to religious hatred.
But the first amendment to the US constitution provides a different kind of legal environment. The Obama administration was therefore not in a position to ban the video so it took the route of trying to persuade Google, YouTube’s owner, that it violated YouTube’s rules. Google declined the request 10 days ago, saying that the video did not violate its terms of service regarding hate speech. The video would remain online because it was against the Islam religion but not Muslim people.
So far, so good. But then Google appeared to undermine its own argument by announcing that it had blocked access to the video in some countries. Access was denied in India and Indonesia because it violated local laws in those jurisdictions, but it was also blocked in Egypt and Libya‚ not because it violated their laws but because of “the delicacy of the situation”.
- YouTube refuses to remove anti-Islamic film clip (telegraph.co.uk)
- Google Blocks Inflammatory Video in Egypt and Libya (nytimes.com)